There is a type of “vaccine injury” story promoted by the antivaccine movement that is particularly pernicious, a narrative I call “death by Gardasil.” The stories, which use tenuous connections between vaccination against HPV to prevent cervical cancer and the unexpected death of a teen or young adult, are always tragic, and you can’t help but feel incredible empathy for the parents. However, none of these stories constitute compelling evidence that Gardasil kills young people. Basically, antivaxers exploit the grief of these parents and their understandable desire to find a cause for their child’s demise to demonize HPV vaccinations as dangerous and deadly.
Colton Berrett developed transverse myelitis at age 13 and as a result was left permanently disabled, with significant paralsysis. Four years later, he died, apparently by suicide. Polly Tommy and the VAXXED crew have been promoting the message that it was Gardasil that caused Colton’s disease and therefore killed him. When I explained why Gardasil almost certainly had nothing to do with Colton’s disease and death, I learned once again how “they” view “us.”
Colton Barrett was a 17 year old boy who developed acute transverse myelitis at age 13, which left him partially paralyzed and dependent on a portable ventilator. Tragically, he died less than two weeks ago. His mother blames Gardasil, which he received two weeks before his first symptoms appeared, for his neurologic illness and death. However, Gardasil almost certainly had nothing to do with Colton’s illness.